Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Rated PG13/157 min.
[ranked one of five stars]
After the opening 10 minutes of the third Transformers movie, we’ve witnessed a robot apocalypse, and learn that the NASA moon landing was a cover–up for the discovery of robots on the moon. Most shockingly, we see that even though this movie costs around $300 million, producers couldn’t afford to cast Presidents Nixon and Kennedy with actors who look anything like the real men.
In the present day, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), a young man as unappealing as his last name, has a rich attractive girlfriend, played by Megan Fox replacement and model-turned-failed actress-turned back-to-modeling Rosie
Huntington-Whiteley. Sam imposes himself upon the U.S. military when he learns of an upcoming attack by the Decepticons and likes to remind everyone that he “saved the world twice.”
I don’t like Michael Bay’s Transformers series because they try to be all things to all people. Of course these idiotic movies are popular, since they incorporate so many different market-tested formulas, stock characters and popular trends; watching the movie is like channel surfing basic cable. These movies are too stupid and obnoxious for many adults and far too profane, scary and sleazy for children, the film’s supposed audience.
Bay’s best film is still The Island, the underrated, wholly unoriginal but engaging summer of 2005 flop that actually established likable characters and a story with genuine human interest. In Dark of the Moon (a title just one word away from paying Pink Floyd royalties), the humans are always rude to each other, shouting constantly. What’s more, no one is likeable.
I expected bad performances from LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson and John Turturro, but it’s sad to see John Malkovich, Frances McDormand and Patrick Dempsey (who plays the film’s only interesting character) giving equally embarrassing turns. As for the robots, they still look like piles of junk (unlike their sleek, appealingly boxy appearances in the cartoon show this is based on) and talk like the cornball villains from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
After a dreadful 90-minute pile-up of countless scenes that could have been shortened or tossed, the movie gets down to the good stuff in a very-extended climax, where Chicago becomes a pile of rubble while the robots duke it out.
There’s an impressively staged set piece involving a gravity-defying escape from a toppling sky scraper: I want to give Bay his due but the scene is such an obvious and shameless recycling of the horrific 9/11 footage, re-imagined as action movie fodder. Ditto a scene involving a space shuttle explosion, which looks uncannily like the Challenger disaster.
After Sept. 11, 2001, many quipped that Michael Bay would one day make a brainless blockbuster based on that day. Well, he did it, the same way he turned Dec. 7, 1941 into an equally wretched popcorn spectacle.
To cut Bay some slack, his action scenes have their moments but there’s so much going on you can be tricked into missing the bad editing. There’s actually a scene where Sam is chased by a Decepticon at work, which then cuts to him driving his car outside with his girlfriend.
What?! How did he escape? Did he teleport his way out of harm’s way?
Despite what I tell my film students, I don’t think Bay is the worst Hollywood director alive. His Transformers movies, on the other hand, are insufferable. They’re like sitting front row at a monster truck rally while Bay sits in your lap and screams at you through his bullhorn, “Is this awesome or what?!” ■